Germany's Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry announced Friday that their researchers could uncover an entire network of cellular helpers and thus identify new regulatory mechanisms of the cellular stress response, when a cell is exposed to dangerous environmental conditions.
"Our results could also be of use for investigating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's," said institute's PhD student Christian Loew.
When an organism is exposed to life-threatening conditions, such as high temperatures, it signals the alarm and a cellular emergency program, initiating the cellular stress response.
Today researchers know that this program is also triggered by other dangers such as radiation or toxic substances.
During the cellular stress response, different stress proteins are synthesized as to prevent permanent damage to the organism.
"You can compare it to an emergency alert. In order to restore the original status as soon as possible, problems and damages are identified, counter-measures initiated and coordinated," Loew said.
In a comprehensive analysis, the Max Planck scientists have investigated 15,000 proteins and their role in the cellular stress response.
The scientists could show that the helpers are organized in different groups according to their tasks and disaster zones. One group of proteins, for instance, checks whether the DNA in the nucleus is still intact.
The understanding of the heat shock response could also be of interest for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, as "a targeted activation of the cellular stress response could reduce the disease specific cell damages," said Loew.